Thursday, October 11, 2012

In Explanation of My Extended Absence From My Duties

Sooo, you may have noticed that I haven't had a blog post in quite some time. Or then again, maybe you haven't. Blogs are a bit like morning disc jockeys that you listen to but barely notice when they are unceremoniously replaced by cheaper talent. Fortunately my analogy does not include unceremonious dumping. Matter of fact, I'll do my best to add a little pomp and ceremony to the explanation for my absence.

I know what you're thinking: Sponge Bob is so easily excited. Is this really a big announcement? Well, I will let you, Dear Reader, decide. But as you have been following this blog about our family's sabbatical in Ecuador, I will presume you are either family or interested in the idea of a family sabbatical. So to my family and to the other two people still subscribed to this blog, I am happy to say that my excuse for neglecting this blog has been to focus on our new website, called Radical Family Sabbatical. (To minimize the many opportunities I've provided for you to misspell the URL, you can just click that link to go there.)

Radical Family Sabbatical is our attempt to provide families and others a resource to help them take a break from their hectic lives, spend more time together, and discover the world and themselves by taking a sabbatical. We want to give others what we could have used ourselves, sure, but we also want to inspire those for whom a sabbatical is a mere dream or who otherwise might not experience such an amazing adventure without a little push out of the nest.

Every week we send new articles to subscribers about planning sabbaticals, dealing with work or business concerns, travel and destinations, education solutions, financial preparations, and even personal growth and giving that sabbaticals inspire. We also feature veteran sabbatical families every week from all walks of life and from every kind of sabbatical experience.

If you haven't already unsubscribed from this blog, then you'll at least be able to tolerate the same snarky tone in Radical Family Sabbatical. And while many of the articles are provided by authors, industry experts, and other sabbatical veterans, we always work to ensure you are entertained while learning a little something.

Anyhoo, that's the lowdown. And I'd like to thank those of you who have followed our story here, and we hope you'll drop by Radical Family Sabbatical to check it out and sign up to receive our regular articles and family features.

Matt Scherr
Editor and highly unpaid principal at
Radical Family Sabbatical

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The panda and the streak

I am an introvert. That's what Meyers and Briggs tell me, anyhow, and I'm inclined to agree with them. That doesn't mean I don't like to go out in public, spend time with my friends, or put on large Broadway-style productions the parking lot of Home Depot on a Saturday. It just means that left in front of my computer or in my house, I sometimes forget that those things are important. (My wife Diana, who is an extrovert, can also forget. But, as we learned while living out in the country in Ecuador, her subconscious gives off subtle little hints that she needs to mingle, such as putting the barrel of a loaded gun in my mouth and speaking in a slow Clint Eastwood voice, "Take me back to PEOPLE!")

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In defense of Peter Pan

I ran into an old acquaintance at a big fundraiser event a bit ago. He's a wise guru-type that I know from my days at a nonprofit leadership organization here in the Vail Valley. It's a boisterous room full of this community's movers and shakers with fat wallets and "mountain chic" attire (whatever that is). "Hey, Matt, what are you up to?" he says. I get a few words out about work. "No, Matt, not your job; how are you serving your purpose?" So much for small talk. I dodged that conversational quagmire by promising some coffee talk later on. But of course that got me thinking about being a grownup.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring loaded

More cute photos like these at
The appeal of perpetual spring is undeniable, particularly as an adult after a few afternoons spent on the couch unclenching your back after shoveling snow off your roof.  But even though the relative warmth and cheeriness of spring can bring visions of Phoenix or Boca Raton, know that warming is not warmth, and to seek out this transitional state in perpetuity is folly.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Crying Game: Growing Outside Your Comfort Zone

Can we just go hooooome!?

The other day our seven-year-old, Piper, said out of the blue, "I really, really miss Ecuador, more than I ever missed Colorado when we were in Ecuador." Which is of course, baloney. But we have a drama queen on our hands and everything tends to come in hyperbole. That said, however, the comment came over a dinner with some friends who were talking about their travels in Africa and intended future travels to other parts of the world with their son, and undoubtedly that conversation ruffled the thin veil separating Piper's memory of Ecuador and her life here at home. And so it seems finally, that everything is going according to plan. Mwaa ha ha ha haaaaaaaa!

In the initial parts of long-term travel, before their will has been broken, children (or at least our children) know only that everything is different and not at all what they are used to and want. So nearly everything you do or say, anywhere you go, anything you eat, will be met with rolling eyes, looks of disgust, and claims of generalized malaise. It is after just a few days of such behavior that the inexperienced and deeply caring parent will wonder what is wrong with their children and just what the hell they've gotten themselves into.

But perseverance and patience are still the most essential parental traits here, particularly because you too are out of your own comfort zone. Where's grandma to tag in when you're taking an emotional beating from these adorable little monsters? Where's the neighbor's pre-teen to play mommy's helper so you can go to your room and lock your door for just an hour, or maybe an afternoon…or month?

It's as true with this experience as it is with any other in life: true growth happens only outside your comfort zone. Well, well done, Admiral Shackleton, you've certainly paved the way for massive growth for you and your family. Now you can at least be comforted by the fact that growth itself is nearly always painful. Heh. Heh heh. So really, patience and perseverance are your tools to keep your emotions from mutiny and taking the helm from rationality.

We had prepared ourselves for the discomfort and complaints in Ecuador. No, scratch that—we had expected the complaints; there is nothing you can do to prepare for them outside your own personal spiritual practice and a firm but smooth wall to bang your head against. But if the whole family makes it through that "adjustment period" alive, the number and frequency of complaints reverts back to a level you're accustomed to, and you can get on with day-to-day living.

You will be tempted then to maintain the surroundings to which they (and you) have now grown accustomed. But do not forget that one of the greatest things extended travel can accustom them (and you) to is change. And so, just when the gales of uncertainty and unfamiliarity have stopped rocking their boats, you should consider blowing new winds in their sails and exploring this strange new land you are trying to call home. Force yourselves in situations with locals so you have to speak the language, embarrass yourselves violating customs, travel and get a little lost, eat weird food.

"We don't live in Ecuador; we're just visiting for 21 months," Piper would remind us from the background. Fair enough. Call it what you like; life here is like this. Or at least it is if you (parent) win this battle of wills. Children do not yet understand that that which does not make you kill them makes you all stronger. And you are all truly enjoying your experience. But no matter how happy they are or how much they enjoy an experience, their natural resistance to change will remind them that it's not home or what they are used to, and this whole adventure business was not their idea (which you can largely avoid by engaging the kids in the planning process early on), and they will complain.

But you, the wise parent, the sage, the patient sensei, know that regardless of what they say or seem to feel about it, this experience will forever change them in profound and positive ways. And someday they may even realize this and thank you for it.

Piper expressing (however over-the-top it may have been) that she misses Ecuador is the very first sign we've seen that she appreciates our sabbatical. It was honestly much sooner or more explicit than we ever expected. Time will still tell how profoundly they were affected by the trip, but it warmed the cockles of our hearts, nevertheless.

No matter how your extended travel with your family goes or ends, you and your family will be better prepared to experience change in life, not as pain, but as adventure. This is not delusional coping; change is merely that. The good or the bad of it is entirely our own internal coloring of what is; and when you have traveled hard, your own palette will be equipped with brilliant colors and not just shades of black and white.